Motorsport: Hartley thwarted at wet Rockingham

Brendon Hartley endured a disappointing fourth round of the British International Formula 3 Championship at Rockingham in Northamptonshire overnight; struggling to match his speed in testing and finishing outside the top six in both rain-affected races.

Hartley had been fastest in the first of two test sessions at the Northamptonshire circuit last Friday, but the New Zealander's early promise was not reflected in the Sunday qualifying sessions or the British Bank Holiday Monday races.

Hartley qualified back on the fifth row of the grid for both races in atrocious wet weather on Sunday - starting tenth and eleventh on the grids - and his Red Bull Dallara Mercedes finished tenth and eighth in yesterday's races.

However, with two new 2008 race winners at Rockingham and series leader Sergio Perez also off the pace; the British Championship remains wide open. Perez was alongside Hartley on the fifth row for both Rockingham races and the Mexican - winner of three races this season - came away with only a fifth and a 13th placing.

With six different drivers taking wins in the eight races to date, the series is already realising the expectation of an epic British F3 season.

Hartley remains in title contention, even though he has slipped to equal seventh in the points table.

After eight races Perez retains overall series leadership with 88pts. Wins at Rockingham for Atte Mustonen and Sebastian Hohenthal have seen the Scandinavians elevated to second and fourth overall with 78pts and 58pts respectively; the pair separated by Hartley's Carlin team mate Jaime Alguersuari. The Spaniard is now on 71pts after a third and second placing at Rockingham.

Carlin's English driver Oliver Turvey is fifth overall on 57pts, Marcus Ericsson from Sweden is sixth on 54pts while Hartley and Max Chilton share seventh with 50pts. Amongst these pace setters, only Ericsson and Chilton are yet to win a race this season.
As at Monza in Italy the previous weekend, wet weather disrupted the Rockingham round. The two qualifying sessions were stop-start affairs where drivers had to snatch fast laps between red flag delays.

In the first race on Monday Mustonen held off a late challenge from Ericsson who came through from seventh on the grid. The race started on a dry track but a rain shower with 10 laps to run tested the young drivers. Alguersuari finished third with pole sitter Chilton fourth from Perez and Turvey.

With the rain set in for the day, Hohenthal scored his maiden British F3 win in the second 30-minute race. Pole winner Alguersuari finished second from Chilton and Mustonen, the top four Dallara-Mercedes chassis being followed across the line in fifth and sixth by the Mygale-Mercedes chassis of Nick Tandy and Michael Devaney.

The next round is at the Snetterton circuit in Norfolk on June 8.

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